Congressman Richard Hudson toured South Piedmont Community College on Thursday as part of his “Job Creation through Workforce Training” tour.
Despite the rain, Hudson toured SPCC’s L.L. Polk campus in Polkton for the first time since 2004, meeting with several college officials, including SPCC president Stan Sidor. The tour included an extensive look at the campus’ many classrooms and equipment, as well as the student center, various offices, and more. Although there were no students because of spring break, Hudson was able to meet with several faculty and staff members throughout the tour.
Following the tour, Hudson spoke briefly at a roundtable discussion that included several active members of the community, including Anson County Schools interim superintendent Michael Freeman and school board members, SPCC board members, and several others.
The son of a retired Cabarrus County teacher and brother of a guidance counselor, Hudson said he has a personal perspective of education needs. “We need to create a skilled workforce,” Hudson said. “I hear people say that they can’t find workers qualified for the jobs. Nationally, there are 12 million unemployed but 3.6 million jobs. Community colleges are crucial to fixing that disconnect.”
Hudson later commented that while some graduates with four-year degrees are unable to find jobs, programs such as SPCC’s nursing degree have close to a 100 percent job placement, showing a need for skilled workers.
Hudson also criticized national spending, saying that instead of very generous payments for those in Washington, the salaries of those in fields such as education should be increased.
Freeman agreed with Hudson, saying that schools are required to meet certain mandates but often lack the funding necessary to help them reach those goals. “The strongest educators are those who are there because of a calling, not a salary; however, at the end of the day they deserve to support their family,” Freeman said. “Many teachers have to work additional part-time jobs to support their families… we’re losing top-notch teachers from community college and the public school system for more lucrative jobs. Please help us treat them like professionals.”
Sidor noted that Pell grant eligibility has changed over the years, so that even if there is grant money, it can be hard to attain due to eligibility requirements that students have to be near the poverty level to collect. He also reflected on the helpfulness of the federal work study program, which allows students to earn money while they learn crucial job skills that can later help them find employment.
Hudson listened to these and several other concerns during the roundtable. Although Hudson noted that one lone congressman can do little he was optimistic about gaining support, adding that several of his other projects have gained support from both parties. He was also pleased with the community and school passion. “I’ve toured through the district and the county and I’m really impressed with the education employees’ dedication and success despite the pay.”
SPCC currently has 2,570 students in curriculum programs, 2,162 in continuing education and 1,331 in basic skills for a total of 6,063 total students.
South Piedmont Community College offers classes in Polkton, Wadesboro and Monroe. Classes are also offered online or hybrid. High school juniors and seniors who meet eligibility requirements (including a “B” high school GPA) may take free college classes. The N.C. Career & College Promise program gives students a college experience — on campus or online. Union County Early College and Anson County Early College, programs that provide youth the opportunity to earn a high school diploma and an associate degree in five years, are offered in partnership with the local school systems, according to grants and community relations director Carolina Cate.
Registration for Summer 2013 and Fall 2013 begins April 23. For more information about the college, visit www.spcc.edu.